NEVADA CITY, Calif. August 29, 2016 – In recent days, firefighters were dispatched on several occasions for debris burns, aka burn piles. Cooler nighttime temperatures and a “fall is in the air” feeling had some homeowners disregard the existing burn ban, putting their homes and whole neighborhoods at risk.
Pleading ignorance or pointing to morning dew are not valid excuses. A ban on all outdoor burning is in effect for the Nevada-Yuba-Placer unit of CAL FIRE, the majority of the state is under the same burn ban. Homeowners responsible for an escaped debris burn can be fined and billed for suppression cost.
With high fire danger, a full wildland dispatch including Air Tac plane, tankers, helicopters, crews, dozers, water tenders and multiple engines is sent to most reported fires.
Roadside fires, caused by dragging trailer chains or parking in high grass, are on the uptick as well.
If you see smoke or flames, call 911 immediately!
Height of the fire season is now
Traditionally, September marks the height of fire season in the Foothills and the Sierra Nevada. Exceptionally dry fuels, along with significant tree mortality in the Sierra, will create a high potential for extreme fire behavior conditions across much of Central California, according to the fuels and fire behavior forecast. “Live fuel moisture values among the native brush have reached levels that are more typical of late September and early October. Dead fuel moisture in the affected areas is either around the 97th percentile, or is at record levels for this time of year. While there may be periods of slight reprieve from the recent hot and dry weather, no significant improvement in fuel conditions is in sight.”
Extreme fire behavior conditions that have not been observed in many years on the current large incidents underscore how dry the fuels are.
Locally, firefighters have been successful at keeping fires under 10 acres and avoid escalation into major incidents. Make no mistake, any fire at this time has the potential to turn into a major conflagration.
Since January 1st of 2016, 75 lightning-caused fires have been reported in Northern California. These fires burned 2,505 acres. 2,430 human-caused fires in the same period of time consumed 42,922 acres.
Three graphs to show how dry it is
Below are the current values for 100 and 1,000-hour fuels and the Energy Release Component recorded on the Tahoe National Forest’s White Cloud station on Hwy 20.
The 100 hour fuel moisture value represents the modeled moisture content of dead fuels in the 1 to 3 inch diameter class. It can also be used as a very rough estimate of the average moisture content of the forest floor from three-fourths inch to 4 inches below the surface. [Source: NorthOps Predictive Services]
1000-Hour dead fuel moisture levels are computed from a 7-day average boundary condition composed of day length, hours of rain, and daily temperature/humidity ranges. Fuel sizes range from 3 to 6 inches in diameter. [Source: NorthOps Predictive Services]
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The Energy Release Component (ERC) is an NFDRS (National Fire Danger Rating System) index related to how hot a fire could burn. It is directly related to the 24-hour, potential worst case, total available energy (BTUs) per unit area (in square feet) within the flaming front at the head of a fire. The ERC can serve as a good characterization of fire season as it tracks seasonal fire danger trends well. The ERC is a function of the fuel model and live and dead fuel moistures. Fuel loading, woody fuel moistures, and larger fuel moistures all have an influence on the ERC, while the lighter fuels have less influence and wind speed has none. [Source: NorthOps Predictive Services]
With the upcoming holiday weekend and breezy northerly winds forecast for the weekend, firefighters will be on high alert. Make their job a little easier and be fire safe.
Find simple steps to help prevent wildfires at the “One less spark, one less wildfire” campaign website.